What’s up at the theater? Funny you should ask.
Last May a wonderfully peculiar vision flew onto the Portland theater scene, and far too quickly, before all but a few people had had a chance to see it, flew off again. Well, spring’s arrived, and To Fly Again, Jerry Mouawad’s dancerly swan of a play, has landed at Imago Theatre again. It opens Friday for another brief run as part of Imago’s Next Wave Festival, and you should try to catch it before it flies the coop yet again on April 6.
I reviewed last year’s production, which had the same cast as the current one (you can read the full review here), and here’s what I wrote, in part:
“It’s easy to say what To Fly Again is like: a big dollop of Waiting for Godot; a splash of Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author; a jigger of Mad Max; and, as ArtsWatch dance writer Martha Ullman West noted after the show, a few drops of Fellini’s dreamscape La Strada, with Tater in the role of the gamine Giulietta Masina. It’s harder to put into words what To Fly Again is, except to say that it’s playful and serious and gentle and harsh and fluid and prickly and utterly, dreamily theatrical. The play enters into Beckett’s existential territory, a territory where God either does not exist or does not care, and yet in the lighter atmosphere of To Fly Again this seems to matter less either way: the universe spins on. … Perhaps most notably, To Fly Again is Mouawad at his most effortless, a grand and gentle, disarmingly assured coming-together of his considerable skills. And in any art form, making a thing seem effortless is the most difficult thing you can do.”
Next up in New Wave will be the premiere of Carol Triffle’s Pebble, May 10-25. The festival’s first attraction, Mouawad’s Leonard Cohen Is Dead, closed last weekend. You can read my review of it here, in a piece that also includes my review of Alan Ayckbourn’s farce Taking Places, which continues through April 7 at Lakewood Theatre.
OREGON’S GIANT THEATRICAL NEWS OF THE WEEK is the appointment of Nataki Garrett to be artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.
It’s one of the plum positions in the American nonprofit theater world – OSF has an annual budget of $44 million and attracts about 400,000 visitors a year – and it’ll be fascinating to discover how and where Garrett decides to steer this very large ship. Garrett will be the festival’s sixth artistic director, its second woman a.d. (after Libby Appel), and its first artistic director of color – worth noting in a company that’s been a national leader in the drive to make equity in casting and staffing a major priority.
She arrives in early April, directs a midseason production, How To Catch Creation, and assumes her full title and responsibilities in September. The 2020 season will be the first under her watch. You can read ArtsWatch’s full story on her appointment here.
MEANWHILE, PORTLAND CENTER STAGE HAS ANNOUNCED its first full season under its new artistic director, Marissa Wolf, who replaced Chris Coleman, who took over as a.d. at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, where Ashland’s new artistic chief, Garrett, served as interim artistic director for 18 months before Coleman moved in. (The national resident-theater scene is a close-knit neighborhood.)
The 2019-20 season will include 10 plays, opening in the fall with a revival of In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first musical (with book by Quiaria Alegía Hudes). Also coming on the company’s two stages in The Armory: a three-woman Macbeth with music; the premiere of Brittany K. Allen’s Redwood; a ghostly-visitation-and-department-store-elf-free holiday with the latter-day Austenian Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley; a revival of the rockin’ sockin’ Hedwig and the Angry Inch; School Girls; or, The African Mean-Girls Play; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (which happens to be getting a well-received production from Portland Actors Conservatory through Sunday at Artists Rep); Heather Raffo’s starkly beautiful 9 Parts of Desire (in which Luisa Sermol gave a searing performance, directed by Louanne Moldovan, in town a few seasons ago); the premiere of a stage adaptation by Caroline Hewitt of E.M. Forster’s novel Howards End; and Lauren Yee’s comedy/mystery/musical Cambodian Rock Band, which is also playing this season in Ashland at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. You can see season details here.
THE SUPERB WRITER/PERFORMER DAEL ORLANDERSMITH (to get back to Center Stage’s current season) opens her solo show Until the Flood, which tracks the angry aftermath of the fatal 2014 police shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., on Friday in the intimate Ellyn Bye Studio at The Armory. It’ll continue through April 21. Reviewing an earlier production in the New York Times, Jesse Green wrote that Orlandersmith “brings the questions, the pain and even the unspeakable thoughts of hundreds, if not millions, to life. Until the Flood is an urgent moral inquest.” Look for ArtsWatch’s review soon.
ALSO OPENING FRIDAY is Charly Evon Simpson’s Jump, a national “rolling premiere” with productions in Chapel Hill, N.C.; Austin; and Atlanta that in its Portland iteration is a co-production of Milagro Theatre (where it’s being performed) and director La’Tevin Alexander Ellis’s Confrontation Theatre. Bobby Bermea has been following the show’s preparations for ArtsWatch and has this inside report.
CATCHING UP: Portland Playhouse has a hit on its hands with Regina Taylor’s sassy and sartorial gospel musical Crowns (hats and other costumes by the talented Wanda Walden), which opened last week, sold out its first several performances and has already added 10 performances, extending its run to April 21. Ben Waterhouse, reviewing in The Oregonian, noted that the Playhouse’s home in a former Baptist Church is an ideal setting: “The intimacy and acoustics of the space allow the performers to sing without amplification, giving the production a closeness and immediacy that musical theater often lacks.” This one’s filling up fast: Tickets and other details here.
Artists Rep’s Wolf Play, Hansol Jung’s tale of an American couple who decide to “un-adopt” their Korean son because they have a newborn, continues through April 7, complete with puppets.
Portland Actors Conservatory, as noted above, continues its production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time through Sunday, also at Artists Rep.
Portland Center Stage’s Tiny Beautiful Things, adapted by Nia Verdalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) from Portland writer Cheryl (Wild) Strayed’s Dear Sugar advice columns, keeps on administering to the passions of the heart through March 31.
At The Vault in Hillsboro, Bag&Baggage enters the final few performances (through Sunday) of The Island in Winter, or, La Isla en Invierno, the premiere of Carlos-Zenen Trujillo’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, transported to Miami and Havana.
And at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, PassinArt: A Theatre Company enters the second week of The No Play, by the fine writer John Henry Redwood, directed by William Earl Ray. It’s set in the Jim Crow territory of small-town North Carolina in 1949; the title refers to all of the “No” signs dotting the landscape and curtailing the rights of African Americans. The show runs through April 14; look for ArtsWatch’s review soon.
LAKEWOOD THEATRE HAS ANNOUNCED ITS 2019-20 season – its 67th –which opens at the company’s Lake Oswego home in July with Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical. Also: a revival of The Rocky Horror Show; a stage adaptation of the movie hit Shakespeare in Love; Frederick Knott’s thriller Wait Until Dark; Neil Simon’s evergreen The Odd Couple; a revival of Funny Girl. The Side Door Stage mini-season of short-run, sung revivals of forgotten or overlooked musicals will include the Howard Dietz/Arthur Schwartz The High Life, with book by the Kanins; the musically delicious Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick show The Apple Tree; and the show that makes the garment industry fun, I Can Get It for You Wholesale. Season details here.